Wining and dining: the latest from Temecula Wine Country

A short time ago, I was cruising my way through a lifestyle expo in Del Mar when I noticed a strikingly attractive hardcover book at a booth, “Temecula Wine Country — Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Wineries in Temecula.” It contained vivid pictures and text of the appellation, its estates, maps, wines and annual events.
Gia Lucy, the author, is a passionate travel writer from nearby San Clemente who fell in love with the rolling hills of Temecula Wine Country. This wine area is undergoing a surge in interest and growth, yet it retains the country-cool of family owned hospitality. I recommend you look in local bookshops and access the web at www.gialucy.com or call (949) 395-2878.
The recent Temecula 20th annual Harvest Celebration was a superb
collaboration of the Winegrowers Association and member wineries that uncorked sample barrels for visitors to taste, as well as new release bottles. 
At Mt. Palomar Winery, a location that will soon expand and renovate its facilities, the “barrel tender” was pouring two kinds of Sangiovese from the 2008 vintage: one stored in French Oak which gave it a vanilla, toasted hint with some coffee features. The second choice was American Oak which suggested a cedar aroma, more domestic than European.
Other wines taste-tested were the ’07 Petite Sirah, a “sock it to me” peppery style wine, and an ’07 Cinsaut, a little known French Rhone varietal of strawberry and cinnamon flavors that I thought was the best of Mt. Palomar’s offerings.
On to Briar Rose with proprietors Dorian and Les Linkogle. I can always expect a surprise or two from these two hosts, and sure enough, library wines came out, including a 100-year-old Port. 
But the most fun was reserved for the appearance of Bruce Kanegai, who is one of the producers of the hit TV show “Survivor.” Briar Rose is known for sudden arrivals of Hollywood celebrities and Bruce and his entourage were no exception.  The “blew-me-away” favorite wine here was the ’04 Cabernet Franc.
Cougar Winery was next with Rick Buffington with his handcrafted, small lots of Italian style wine. Rick was offering a barrel-selected ’08 Full Monte, a Montepulciano di Abruzzo and his latest Sangiovese, the ’08. His Italian meatballs were a perfect soul food companion to the Italian lineup of reds.
In case you are wondering about Full Monte, it’s the name of his 8-week-old Labrador retriever wine puppy!
Danza Del Sol is the latest name on the growing list of Temecula wineries. It was formerly known as Filsinger. Bob Olson, the new owner, hired Mike Tingley from Keyways and the lineup has already won gold for its ’09 Chardonnay. He was also pouring some Rhone style reds:  the ’08 Syrah (not yet released) and the ’08 Grenache with a strawberry/licorice flavor.
Speaking of things Mediterranean, try the new menu at the Pinnacle Restaurant, part of Falkner Winery. Ray and Loretta Falkner, working with Executive Chef Gianni Ciciliot, have an “eat healthy” selection that uses extensive olive oil, fruits and vegetables to enhance the entrees. Lunch is served daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.falknerwinery.com.
 Wine Bytes
— Baker& Olive in Encinitas is at Dolce Pane e Vino of Rancho Santa Fe at 6 p.m. Nov. 16 for an Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Pairing dinner. It’s a five-course dinner with five great wines to accompany. Cost is $65 per person. Reserve at (858) 832-1518.
— Bacchus Wine Market presents the latest Pinot Noir from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 26 in San Diego’s Gaslamp district. Cost is $20. For more information, call (619) 236-0005.
— San Diego Wine Company has a Sparkling Wine and Champagne Tasting on Nov. 27 at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Fee is $25. RSVP which time you want by calling (858)586-WINE.
— Looking ahead, if you are heading up to Napa Valley, the city of Yountville is decking the halls and getting jolly with its Winterscape Celebration starting Dec. 1.  Twinkling lights, carriage rides, public art and night hours for tasting rooms, for starters.  Get the full story at www.yountville.com.

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